How Exercise-Related Hormones Have A Powerful Fat Loss Effect
You probably know from my previous posts that hormones play an absolutely critical role in fat loss because they regulate metabolic rate. If you don’t have your hormones working for you, fat loss becomes impossible. Hormones dictate hunger and food cravings, so if the wrong ones are elevated at the wrong times, you’ll find yourself constantly hungry.
Another effect of hormone dysregulation is that we get lazy. When hormones are out of balance, we feel tired and sluggish. We are less likely to work out and be physically active so that we burn calories.
How do hormones get out of balance and cause all this misery?
One way is by eating poor quality meals and high-carb refined foods. These foods negatively affect metabolic hormones like insulin and keep the body in fat storing mode.
Another way is poor sleep and sedentariness. If you’ve got a stressful desk job, chances are your hormones aren’t working for you in the best way possible.
The cool thing is that exercise is a powerful tool that will reset your hormones, making fat loss easier. A lot of people don’t realize that the true power of exercise to help you lose fat isn’t in the calories it burns but in how it improves your hormones for effortless leanness and a happier life. Here are seven ways exercise can help fix your hormones for easier fat loss and a better body composition.
#1: Increase Growth Hormone For Greater Fat Burning
Growth hormone (GH) is probably the most well known hormone to have an exercise-related fat loss effect. Besides initiating fat burning, GH also facilitates protein synthesis for faster recovery and greater muscular development.
With exercise, more GH is released the harder you train. This is one reason that high-intensity workouts are so popular for fat loss: They cause the release of extra GH. In particular, GH release is correlated with high lactate levels. Lactate is produced at high intensities in which inadequate oxygen is present. This makes sprint training and intense weight training with short rest periods ideal for elevating GH and reaping its fat burning, body sculpting effects.
#2: Boost Catecholamines For Higher Metabolic Rate
The catecholamines are epinephrine and norepinephrine. They stimulate the central nervous system, raising your metabolic rate. These hormones also initiate fat burning in both fat tissue and active muscles.
Catecholamine release is most closely related to exercise intensity. In a study of male cyclists, norepinephrine increased linearly as intensity that exceeds 50 percent of VO2 max, whereas epinephrine remained unchanged until intensity exceeded the 75 percent level.
The catecholamines are also released in large quantities in response to short, maximal intensity efforts, such as sprints or weight training. Interestingly, sprint and power athletes show higher elevations of the catecholamines than endurance athletes, which is related to the higher anaerobic contribution to energy supply during these activities.
#3: Balance Cortisol For Easier Fat Loss
Cortisol is released by the body in response to both physical and psychological stress in order to free energy stores to be burned. Many people think that all stress is bad and therefore, elevations in cortisol need to be avoided. Not so.
When balanced, such that cortisol is readily metabolized following a stressful experience, cortisol can be beneficial for body composition because it gives you energy and raises your metabolism. However, when cortisol levels are chronically high, muscle loss and fat gain often occur. If you are in an energy surplus and experience intense stress throughout the day, high cortisol in the presence of insulin makes the body store fat.
The key is to develop a lifestyle that balances short, acute elevations in cortisol from hard training with adequate recovery. You also have to find ways of coping with life stress that give you rejuvenating down time so that your adrenals stay responsive and healthy.
Besides scheduling in pleasurable activities like social time and listening to music, some forms of exercise will help you manage stress. For example, anaerobic forms of exercise such as sprints or weight training have been found to reset the hypothalamic pituitary axis so that it becomes more responsive and cortisol balance improves. Favorable changes in body composition tend to follow.
#4: Increase Insulin Sensitivity For Greater Fat Burning & Higher Metabolic Rate
Insulin is a storage hormone that regulates blood sugar (glucose) entry into fat and muscle cells.
Exercise is fantastic for improving how your body uses insulin because it makes the muscle cells more sensitive to insulin and muscle consumes more than 90 percent of the glucose in your blood. It’s a win-win situation that has obvious benefits for fat loss: More energy is being burned instead of stored as fat, and your body is able to handle significantly more carbs, without storing those calories as fat.
Studies show all forms of physical activity improve insulin sensitivity, however, anaerobic modes like weight training and sprinting may have the greatest impact because they build lean tissue, thereby increasing your overall demand for energy. For every 10 percent increase in muscle mass, you get an 11 percent increase in insulin sensitivity.
#5: Boost Myokine Hormones To Raise Metabolic Rate
Emerging research shows there are a number of powerful metabolic hormones that are released by muscle tissue in response to exercise. Myokines are one class of these compounds that have been found to raise metabolic rate by causing the browning of white fat tissue. People with more brown fat tend to be leaner and have higher resting metabolic rates than those with more white fat.
A particularly exciting myokine is irisin, which helps the body burn excess body fat, while also improving cognition and general well being. Although irisin increases in response to both aerobic and anaerobic training, the effect appears to be greatest following weight training. This is possibly due to the force of the muscle contractions required to lift heavy loads.
#6: Master Your Hunger Hormones
The most important factor in achieving fat loss is to effectively manage your hunger hormones. Glucagon is a hormone that increases with exercise in order to initiate fat burning and keep energy levels in balance. When glucagon is elevated it signals the body to reduce levels of ghrelin, which is a hunger stimulating hormone.
Ghrelin is normally released by the stomach and it increases a few hours after eating to induce hunger. Leptin is released by fat tissue and rising levels shut off sensations of hunger, but falling levels trigger appetite and slow metabolism.
It’s still unclear exactly how exercise impacts the hunger hormones, however, there is evidence that high-intensity short duration exercise such as weight training or intervals will suppress appetite. For example, one study found a 35 percent increase in glucagon concentrations with higher exercise intensities. This causes a cascade effect, reducing ghrelin and making the body more sensitive to leptin.
On the other hand, evidence suggests that low- and moderate-intensity exercise trigger appetite. This leads people to eat more, often to the point that the eliminate any calorie deficit achieved via their workout. The result is less than expected weight loss, or even fat gain in some cases.
Therefore, it’s recommended that you plan your workouts around weight training and intervals in order to improve body composition. The key is to be aware of the importance of appetite regulation if your goal is fat loss. Manage portions and monitor how you feel in response to different forms of exercise and be conscious to avoid rewarding yourself with food for a workout well done.
#7: Raise Testosterone For Better Body Composition
Although women have much lower levels of testosterone than men, testosterone is key for both sexes to achieve peak athletic performance. It is beneficial for body composition, promoting fat burning and development of lean mass in trained muscle.
During exercise, testosterone is locally synthesized in muscle from DHEA. Additionally, exercise helps increase the testosterone-to-cortisol ratio, which is a marker of recovery and the overall anabolic environment in the body.
Testosterone is elevated the most in response to intermittent exercise with large muscle groups such as sprints or weight training. Heavier loads (above 80 percent of the 1RM) and relatively short rest periods (1 to 2 minutes) have been shown to lead to the greatest testosterone release. In one review, researchers write that hard training is the only way to get the body to release more testosterone and other androgens, which enable peak performance.
“There are no substitutes or shortcuts available,” write researchers. “If the body requires more androgens, it will produce them endogenously.”
Practical Take Away Points:
Although a well-planned healthy diet is paramount for fat loss, regular exercise is also critical because it leads to the release of hormones that increase fat burning and raise metabolic rate.
#2: Train With Weights.
Weight training not only helps preserve lean muscle mass during fat lass, but forceful muscular contractions lead to the release of hormones that boost daily calorie burn, making it easier to create an energy deficit.
#3: Do Sprints.
High intensity intermittent training modes such as weight training and sprint intervals convey unique benefits for body composition by reducing hunger and favorably affecting hormone response to exercise.
#4: Ensure Recovery.
Training has been found to reset the hypothalamic pituitary axis resulting in healthier cortisol levels for a better metabolism. Ensure adequate recovery and schedule enjoyable downtime to achieve balance.
#5: Make Every Workout Count.
One thing that sets the successful people apart is they have a high training quality—there are no shortcuts available. They go in and get it done in the gym, cutting no corners and putting in the effort. Their bodies respond accordingly!